V. I.   Lenin

Fundamental Problems of the Election Campaign



We have now come face to face with the question of the celebrated “Left bloc” policy. Yuri Chatsky and F. Dan, it may be said without exaggeration, rave and fulminate against a Left bloc. This is all the more natural to the second of these two politicians since he must somehow cover up his betrayal of the workers’ cause and his part in the split of the St. Petersburg workers’ organisation, for the sake of a bloc with the Cadets, in the spring of 1907! But the question of a Left bloc is an interesting and important question of principle, not only, and even not so much, from the   standpoint of election agreements (under the existing electoral law the “Left bloc” has seldom been realised in practice), but from the point of view of the general character and content of election propaganda and agitation. To “compel” the most numerous democratic masses in the country (the peasants and sections of the non-agricultural petty bourgeoisie akin to them) “to choose between the Cadets and the Marxists”, and to pursue a line of “joint action” of the workers and the peasant democrats both against the old regime and against the vacillating counter-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie, is the basis and substance of the tactics of a “Left bloc”. These tactics were sanctioned by the course of events in 1905 (the working-class and peasant movement), by the votes of the “Trudovik” and workers’ groups in the First and the Second Dumas, by the attitude of the press of the different parties to the cardinal questions of democracy, and even by the stand on the agrarian question taken by the “peasant group” in the Third Duma (considering that there are many Right elements in that group!). It is a well-known fact that the agrarian bill introduced by forty-three peasant members of the Third Duma[1] is far more democratic than the liberal bill of the Cadets, a fact the Cadets themselves admit!

There is no doubt that it is precisely in this sense, on general principles, that the liquidators repudiate the “Left bloc” policy. And there is just as little doubt that their repudiation of the Left bloc policy constitutes treason to the cause of democracy. Not a single bourgeois-liberation movement the world over has ever failed to provide examples and instances of “Left bloc” tactics, and wherever these movements triumphed, in all such cases, it was always as a result of these tactics, a result of the struggle being directed along these lines in spite of the vacillations and treachery of the liberals. It was the “Left bloc” tactics—the alliance between the urban “plebs” (==the modern proletariat) and the democratic peasantry that lent sweep and force to the English revolution in the seventeenth century and the French revolution iii the eighteenth century. Marx and Engels drew attention to this fact on many occasions, not only in 1848, but much later as well. In order to avoid quoting frequently quoted passages, we shall merely mention   the correspondence between Marx and Lassalle in 1859. Apropos of Lassalle’s tragedy Franz von Sickingen, Marx wrote that the intended collision in the drama was “not simply tragic, but really the tragic collision that spelled the dooms and properly so, of the revolutionary party of 1848–49”. And Marx, indicating in general terms the entire line of the future differences between the Lassalleans and the Eisenachers,[2] reproached Lassalle for making the mistake of “placing the Lutheran-knightly opposition above the plebeian-Muncerian opposition”.[3]

We are not here concerned with the question whether Marx was right or wrong in making that reproach; we think he was right even though Lassalle defended himself vigorously against this reproach. The important point is that Marx and Engels considered it an obvious mistake to place the “Lutheran-knightly” opposition (the opposition of the liberals and landowners in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century) above the “plebeian-Muncerian” opposition (proletarian and peasant, in that same Russia); that both of them considered this absolutely impermissible for a Social-Democrat!

In heaping abuse upon Left bloc tactics, the liquidators try by their words to drown the inescapable fundamental issue of the principle that a “Left bloc” policy is obligatory for every workers’ party in every bourgeois-democratic movement. Since they are unable to deal with the question in terms of principle they get into curious contradictions and defeat their own case. Here is an instance. The very same Martov, who dreads a “Left bloc” like the plague, writes in formulating the agrarian programme in his “Fundamental Theses of a Platform” that “as before, the surest, most painless and most advantageous path of cultural development is ... to take the landed estates from their present owners and transfer them to the people”. Involuntarily he thus went so far as to advocate, oh horror! nationalisation! That in the first place. Secondly, in expressing this correct idea, Martov (despite his colleague Cherevanin—see the latter’s Vekhi-type book on The Present Situation in 1908) expressed a Left bloc idea; his agrarian programme is a programme of Left bloc action both against the old regime and against the liberal parties of the Cadet type!   “Drive Nature out of the door, and she will fly in through the window”!

The agrarian programme formulated by L. Martov is one on which the workers and the peasant Trudoviks together with their ideological leaders, the Narodniks, are making common cause (actually making common cause, i.e., working together regardless of any “agreements”). On the other hand, this programme separates both the workers and the peasant Trudoviks, taken together, from the Cadets (and from the bourgeois liberals in general). If in addition to this absolutely indisputable political conclusion, you will bear in mind that the agrarian question (the question of democratic agrarian change) is a key question of our liberation movement, then it is obvious that Martov was compelled to formulate “Left bloc” tactics in regard to the central issue of our epoch!

How and why did this misfortune befall our opponent of the “Left bloc” policy? Very simply. It was necessary for him either to break with the old programme openly and unequivocally, which he could not make up his mind to do; he had not yet “caught up” with the courageous (in their renegacy) Cherevanin and Larin. Or else it was necessary to reproduce, at least more or less correctly, the old programme—from which the “Left bloc” policy follows as an inescapable conclusion. Such is the bitter lot of our liquidators.


[1] This refers to the agrarian bill of the independent and Right peasant deputies, introduced into the Third Duma on May 10 (23), 1908. The bill envisaged the compulsory alienation with compensation at average market prices of the landed estates not being exploited by their owners. It was proposed to implement the land reform through local land committees elected by a general vote. For Lenin’s appraisal of this bill see his articles “The New Agrarian Policy” and “The Agrarian Debates in the Third Duma”

[2] Eisenachers—members of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany founded in 1869 at the Eisenach Congress. The leaders of the Eisenachers were August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, who were under the ideological influence of Marx and Engels. The Eisenach programme stated that the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany considered itself “a section of the International Working Men’s Association and shared its aspirations”. Thanks to the regular advice and criticism, of Marx and Engels, the Eisenachers pursued a more consistent revolutionary policy than did Lassalle’s General Association of German Workers; in particular, on the question of German unification, they followed “the democratic and proletarian path and struggled against any concessions to Prussianism, Bismarckism or nationalism”

[3] Lenin is quoting from a letter written by Marx to Lassalle on April 19, 1859. When Lenin wrote this article, Marx’s letter had not yet been published, and he availed himself of extracts from it which Lassalle had quoted in his reply to Marx and Engels dated May 27, 1859 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 138–40).

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